This Drone is Helping Golf Courses Stay Green

June 26, 2017

11:30 am

In just a few short years, the advancement in drone technology has made it possible for everyone from a young child to commercial business to use its core capabilities.

James Peverill, CEO GreenSight Agronomics, used to build drones for the military and now uses his skills to build drones that can survey the health of golf course turf and help his clients save water and chemicals needed to keep the fairways healthy.

golf

From the drone command center, licensed pilots remotely activate the drone from its sight and make daily flights around the course. From the drone’s aerial video, their platform can analyze low points of moisture, the health of the green, provide day-to-day comparisons of the turf, review renovation monitoring and give a snapshot of each hole. Ultimately this evaluation will help golf course staff manage overall turf quality and efficient use of water and chemicals to make it all green and beautiful.

To date, the company has surveyed over 20,000 acres of golf turf, are located at close to 36 active sites, and have nearly 1000 hours of safe flight operations logged. They also have contracts with Arlington-based agencies like DARPA and ONR as well as the Air Force Research Lab, US Army and University of Maryland.

Recently GreenSight won the 2017 Startup Arlington competition and walked away with $25,000 in capital from Kiddar Capital, three months lodging at a luxury apartment in Arlington, incubator space at 1776 and access to influencers, investors and mentors from the community.

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I talked with James about their company’s eco-friendly mission, drone technology and what’s next for GreenSight.

Talk about the eco-friendly mission of the company

GreenSight is building what we call the intelligence platform for agriculture. We utilize fully automated drones and advanced sensors coupled with machine learning to deliver valuable and actionable intelligence to high end agriculturalists like golf course superintendents, wine growers etc.

Our patent pending thermal imaging technology and moisture analytic will solve a billion-dollar irrigation problem for the golf industry and that is just the beginning. We are pushing to integrate our platform with automated agriculture technology like irrigation systems and GPS guided sprayers to reduce labor even further.

Can you describe a day in the life of the GreenSight drone

We are testing our eventual system where the drone will live in a weatherproof enclosure until it is time to fly. At which point it will automatically take off, fly its designated area, land and be recharged for the next flight.

The regulations don’t yet allow this type of unattended operations, so in the meantime our users simply leave the vehicle on a charger inside overnight and at the appropriate time they put it outside. Our remote operators take it from there, verifying that weather conditions are appropriate and there are no nearby airspace issues that would prevent a drone flight. Once this is confirmed the remote operator instructs the drone to takeoff. From this point the drone operates completely autonomously until it lands itself. The customer then takes it inside and places it on the charger.

Are your customers able to fly your drones?

Under current FAA laws in the USA our customers must have what’s known as an RPIC, or remote pilot in command certificate. This means they must take a test to verify that they understand how airspace safety works. We are actively working with the FAA to get a waiver to remove this requirement, but in the meantime, most of our customers have enjoyed becoming “licensed drone pilots.”

Beyond this certificate, our customers don’t have to do much to use our system since we do all the piloting remotely. We provide customers training on how to use our online portal to access their daily information.

What is the future of drones in 2017

Talk about what it means to your company to win Startup Arlington

Winning Startup Arlington was a great milestone for the company. Being selected from over 130 amazing other companies was a huge win for the company.

Having the facility in Arlington allowed us to be closer to some of our DC area customers and onboard some amazing employees from the area. We also picked up a few new investors from the connections we forged both by being in Arlington and from the press we garnered from the contest.

We greatly appreciate all the support we received from the great folks in Arlington who made the contest a reality.

Talk about the benefits of building a business in Arlington

Arlington is a fantastic location for technology startups. The proximity to the government is a great way to increase connections with government customers and work with regulatory agencies like the FAA.

We also find that investors in the area are hungry for innovative high-tech startups since many of the businesses in the area are focused on more government-centric products like cyber security or IT services.

As a company doing innovative work in robotics, machine learning and agriculture, we found that investors were very excited to speak with us since we stood out from what they were used to seeing in the startup community.

What’s next for GreenSight?

GreenSight is raising a Series A equity financing round and currently in negotiation with several strategic and financial investors to participate. We have already built an industry leading full stack platform and we are raising money to dramatically scale our business.

We currently have sales, production and operations capacity to onboard around ten customers a month. By the end of this year we intent to be able to deploy 100 systems per month, with an operations and processing capacity over 1000 active systems worldwide.

Watch how the GreenSight drone scans golf courses here.

Read more about startups in Arlington at Tech.Co

Photos courtesy of GreenSight

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master’s degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.

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